Department of Music

Performance Studies Focus Group
Toronto, July 2004

Performance Studies Focus Group Pre-Conference Call for Working Group Participants in the following areas: Music as Performance; Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance; Performance and Ecology; Mixed-Media Performance; Philosophical Intersections in Performance Studies; and Jewish Performance Studies. Details about the full event and requested submissions follow below. Performance Studies has been a debated and contested term which has been employed in many different contexts and with many different meanings. Whether coming from theatre, philosophy, ethnography, music, art history, or any one of a number of varied disciplines and backgrounds, contemporary life has undergone a turn to "performance." This pre-conference will engage a variety of scholars, practitioners, and students to explore ideas that intersect within the term Performance Studies. The pre-conference will begin with an opening roundtable entitled "Canadian Intersections in Performance Studies," drawing on ATHE's location in Canada this year and exploring the issues of Performance Studies and its relationship to theatre studies in Canada. Confirmed speakers are: Penny Farfan, University of Calgary; Christopher Innes, York University; Ric Knowles; University of Guelph; DD Kugler, Simon Fraser University; and Jessica Wyman; Queen's University and Ontario College of Art and Design. This opening panel will be followed by a session entitled, "International Intersections: Reports from Afar," moderated by Nancy Reilly-McVittie and PA Skantze, in which we will invite attending scholars from other geographical regions to extend the discussion and report on the status of performance studies in their institutions, cities, and communities. This panel will begin to interrogate the ways in which performance studies has developed beyond its US disciplinary origins. Following the opening roundtable, we will break down into smaller "working groups," which will address a variety of individual topics in the field with the goal of each creating a presentation to share with the other working groups at the end of the pre-conference. Following the IFTR/FIRT model, these working groups are designed to be ongoing discussion groups out of which might evolve future anthologies, conference panels, and/or articles. Confirmed general working group topics and leaders are: Music as Performance (Phil Auslander), Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance (Rhonda Blair), Performance and Ecology (Wendy Arons and Sarah Standing), Mixed-Media Performance (Jessica Chalmers and Jennifer Parker-Starbuck), Philosophical Intersections in Performance Studies (Josh Abrams and Gwendolyn Alker), and Jewish Performance Studies (Henry Bial). The concluding roundtable will be a response and discussion of Stephen Bottom's provocative article "The Efficacy/Effeminacy Braid: Unpicking the Performance Studies/Theatre Studies Dichotomy," (Theatre Topics 13.2, September 2003). Confirmed speakers for this discussion are: Stephen Bottoms, Marvin Carlson, Tracy C. Davis, Shannon Jackson, Anthony Kubiak, Martin Puchner, and Richard Schechner. The Working Groups are as follows: 1. Music As Performance, Coordinator: Philip Auslander Although Performance Studies takes the traditional performing arts as part of its purview, the discipline has thus far ignored music almost completely. This working group will seek to redress that neglect by investigating what a Performance Studies perspective on musical performances might be and might yield. The working group will take non-theatrical musical performances (that is, concerts and similar performances rather than musical theatre or opera, not restricted to live forms) in any musical genre as its main objects of inquiry. The initial meeting in Toronto will be devoted to addressing some basic questions and forming a plan of action for the future. It is hoped that participants will remain in touch after the conference and that we can find ways of working together on an on-going basis. The questions we will discuss at this first meeting may include: - Why has Performance Studies taken so little interest in musical performances? - What are the barriers to making connections between Performance Studies and music? - What are the connections between musical performance and performance genres to which Performance Studies has been more attentive (e.g., ritual, performance art)? - What does Performance Studies have to offer the study of music? - How is a Performance Studies perspective different from other perspectives (e.g., musicological or cultural studies perspectives)? - What kinds of questions might a Performance Studies approach to music involve? - With what other disciplines should Performance Studies seek to make common cause in discussing musical performances? In order to give us a point of departure, the session coordinator will assign some readings in texts that relate directly to the questions at hand. 2. Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance, Coordinator: Rhonda Blair Over the last two decades there have been significant developments in neuroscience and cognitive science that are requiring us to redefine our sense of the interrelationship among biology, culture, and consciousness; this in turn requires us to reframe our understanding of performance. This group will consider both the possible benefits and pitfalls in using the science to advance our work in performance studies. - The Toronto gathering will consider basic questions such as the following to provide a framework: - What do neuroscience and cognitive science have to offer performance studies? - What are the dangers or limitations? - How does taking into account that brain structure and function are materially related to the nature of consciousness and experience affect our understanding of the relationship among body, mind, and feeling in the participants in a performance event? - What might this mean in regard to the intersections of artistic/cultural practice, theory, and science? In considering how brain structure and function are materially related to the nature of consciousness and self, we can move toward a more concrete sense of how the artist, spectator, and theorist work, and how this might affect our sense of what theatre and performance are. The focus is the neurocognitive ground of memory, feeling, imagery, representation, and self as a way of reengaging the process of performance. I will assign some readings to provide a common starting point for our discussion, and ask that participants provide a brief statement of interest, since there are myriad ways of engaging this material. 3. Performance and Ecology, Co-Coordinators: Wendy Arons, and Sarah Standing, Scholars, artists, and activists working on issues/themes/questions/investigations related to performance and ecology are invited to convene at the PS Preconference for a new working group. This will be an ongoing research group focused on investigating intersections between performance and ecology. This group will explore the myriad ways in which drama/theatre/performance considers and articulates ideas and practices of ecology. We are interested in the entire range of intersections, for example: plays that address ecological issues directly, eco-activism, theatre where 'nature' itself becomes a performative element, as well as performances that instigate new ideologies and produce new meanings around ecology. At the same time, we also want to scrutinize the inherent problems or challenges in combining these disciplines. Specific questions we propose to consider include: - How do drama/theatre /performance and ecology intersect? - What language do we use to describe various types of: "eco-drama," "eco-theatre" and "eco-performance"? - What constitutes "eco-performance" or "eco-theatre"? - Does it have political, "real world" effects, and if so, how can those be measured? - Are there differences between eco-activism and eco-performance? - What might be gained/lost by theorizing eco-activism as performance? - What can the "field" of performance studies contribute to the conversation on ecology? - How is performance/theatre theorizing/furthering a conception of and a dialogue with ecology? Prospective participants (including theatre/performance studies scholars and ethnographers; environmental activists; and theatre artists (playwrights, designers, directors, actors), visual artists and performance artists creating "eco-performance," "eco-theatre" or "eco-drama") should submit an example of an instance of "eco-performance" or "eco-theatre" to the working group coordinators for discussion to indicate their commitment and interest in joining the working group. 4. Mixed-Media Performance Working Group, Co-Coordinators: Jessica Chalmers, and Jennifer Parker-Starbuck, SEEKING: Artists, scholars, activists, and others to work together to further the exploration of performance media from both theoretical and practical perspectives. By "performance media" we mean technologies used in theater or time-based art such as (but not limited to): closed-circuit television, digital or analog video, animation and other forms of image manipulation, interactive and non-interactive Internet use, MUDS and on-line or off-line gaming, and/or audio and lighting manipulation. WE INVITE YOU: to participate in an ongoing discussion/collaboration between artists and scholars working in and outside of academia. At our first meeting in Toronto we hope to examine such questions as: - Which technologies are the most transformative of traditional narrative forms? For example, has email changed the way we write or improvise dialogue? - Do such technologies change the representation of the body and subjectivity? If so, how? - What issues arise for artists in selecting media and media hybrids for performance? - How do artistic choices about types of media to employ speak to, and affect, cultural perceptions? - What can be the role of technologically driven performance in work with students? - How do public and private funding trends affect the aesthetics of such performances? - What historical forms have anticipated current uses of technology in performance? Beyond this (annual) meeting we envision possible outside collaborations in the form of conference panels, artistic projects, and an on-line journal. If you are interested in being a part of this exciting new working group, please submit a one page statement of interest to both of the working group organizers at: and 5. Philosophic Intersections in Performance Studies, Co-Coordinators: Josh Abrams, and Gwendolyn Alker, Performance Studies has always been defined by the fluidity of its disciplinary boundaries. While most stories of origin locate this field at the intersection of theatre and anthropology, other disciplinary collusions suggest different beginnings and subsequent models. One of the least discernable margins lies at the meeting point between P.S. and the discipline of Philosophy; yet this is also one of the most important borders in light of the "theory explosion" of the last 35 years. In this working group we will attempt to trace and discuss some of the important sites of generativity between the two areas, the disciplinary ramifications and the ongoing possibilities for cross-pollination. This initial meeting will set parameters for future discussions and collaborations. We intend to examine the boundaries of a philosophic canon within Performance Studies, exploring why certain philosophic discourses have been taken up by P.S. while others have not. In order to create a common foundation for ongoing discussion, the coordinators may assign readings before the first meeting of the group. Initial questions may include: - What are the initial locations and ongoing points of intersection between Philosophy and Performance Studies? - How does the relationship between Philosophy and Performance Studies overlay and speak to the theory/practice dichotomy? - What strands of philosophic thought have been most influential in Performance Studies and why? - What might Performance Studies have to offer to the field of Philosophy and the methodologies prevalent within philosophic thought? 6. Jewish Performance Studies, Coordinator: Henry Bial, While the transmission of cultural information through theatrical performance is, like ritual performance, mimetic and instructional, it lacks the authenticating power of traditional religious or academic structures. Perhaps this is why, to paraphrase Jonathan Boyarin, Jews are not marginal in either theatre or the academy, yet Jewish theatre scholarship is rarely at home in either Theatre Studies or Jewish Studies. This working group starts from the idea that if a critical formulation of contemporary Jewish identity is possible, Performance Studies is where and how it must happen. Like Jewishness itself, Performance Studies is a marginal, cross-disciplinary project encompassing many disparate constituencies. Like "performance studies people," Jews (especially in the Diaspora) frequently choose (or are required) to adopt a secondary identity position in order to win acceptance from the "mainstream." Moreover, the overarching concept of Performance allows us to bring together two apparently competing discourses of Jewish difference: 1) the Jew's body, a genealogical or descent-based understanding of Jewish identity; and 2) Jewish behavior (ritual or social), an elective or consent-based model. Our first meeting will begin with the intentionally open-ended question: "What's the deal with Jews and Theatre?" All participants will be asked in advance to circulate a statement/position paper of 500-1000 words addressing this topic. These papers will shape the agenda for a conversation that will begin in Toronto and (we hope) continue via e-mail and subsequent conferences. Artists and scholars of all religions and ethnicities are encouraged to participate. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Schedule: Wednesday, July 28th 9-10am Registration 10am-12pm Opening Roundtable, "Canadian Intersections in Performance Studies" 12-1pm "International Intersections: Reports from Afar" 1-2pm Lunch break 2-5pm Working Group Sessions 5:30-7:30pm Reception at The Playwrights Guild of Canada. This is a 10-minute walk from the hotel, at 54 Wolseley Street (one block north of Queen St., one block east of Bathurst St.) Performance options TBA Thursday, July 29th 9-10:30 am Working Group Presentations 11-1pm Closing Roundtable: Before July 10, pre-registration for ATHE members is $20. For non-members, pre-registration is $30 until July 10. After that date, members can register for $30 and non-members for $50. Please mail registration information, along with a check payable to CUNY Theatre Program for the appropriate amount to: Jennifer Parker-Starbuck/Josh Abrams 427 8th Street, 4th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11215 Attn: PS-ATHE Preconference If you have any questions please contact pre-conference organizers, Jennifer Parker-Starbuck and Josh Abrams, at ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Registration Information Name: ___________________________________________ Institution: ___________________________________________ Address 1: ___________________________________________ Address 2: ___________________________________________ City, State, Zip: ___________________________________ Email: ___________________________________________ Daytime Phone: ___________________________________________ Evening Phone: ___________________________________________ Preferred Working Group: (please rank top three choices from 1 to 3) ___Music As Performance Coordinator: Philip Auslander ___Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, and Performance Coordinator: Rhonda Blair ___Performance and Ecology Coordinators: Wendy Arons and Sarah Standing ___Mixed-Media Performance Coordinators: Jessica Chalmers and Jennifer Parker-Starbuck ___Philosophic Intersections in Performance Studies Coordinators: Josh Abrams and Gwendolyn Alker ___Jewish Performance Studies Coordinator: Henry Bial